A Casino Card Shark’s First Time Getting Caught
As a struggling grad student, I happened upon a lucrative side hustle with an elite team of card-counters—and found the community I'd been looking for.
Illustrations by Sophie Margolin | Edited by Lilly Dancyger
I had just placed another $100 bet when the man in a dark suit, flanked by two larger men in darker suits, approached me from behind. I pretended not to see them coming, relaxing my posture against the plush back of the velvet chair. My heart raced, but I kept my breath even and my gaze focused on the ordered diagram of cards scattered across the red felt. It was my third month as a professional card counter, and I was about to be kicked out of a casino for the first time.
I could have been any young woman dressed for a Saturday night out in Las Vegas: makeup done, skin bronzed, little black dress hugging my petite frame, my grandmother’s vintage fur shrug draped around my shoulders. But at least one of the men approaching had seen something in me—beyond my appearance. He knew who I really was.
Counting cards isn’t illegal, but a casino, like any business, has the right to refuse service to anyone. I know players who have been h…